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Re: Mototown Postponed

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  • Andy Ritter
    Congrats on #1100- Sounds like a tiring trip but worth it. Keep it fun! Andy Ritter ... Center of ... this latest ... night between ... That s a fancy name
    Message 1 of 10 , Dec 15, 2007
      Congrats on #1100- Sounds like a tiring trip but worth it.

      Keep it fun!
      Andy Ritter




      --- In TrackChasers@yahoogroups.com, RPMGORDY@... wrote:
      >
      > Greetings from your breadman,
      >
      > After nailing 1099 last weekend at the kart track in the
      Center of
      > Progress Building on the NYS Fairgrounds, I was itching to get
      this latest
      > milestone. On the spur of the moment I flew to Atlanta, GA last
      night between
      > storms and nabbed the Thunder Ring at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
      That's a fancy name
      > for the inner, quarter mile oval where they race all the INEX
      classes. I
      > worked until 11:00am, drove to Philly, flew to ATL at 2:30pm,
      arrived at 4:45pm,
      > drove to the track, watched the show that started at 6:30 and
      ended at 8:30,
      > went back to the ATL airport, flew back to Philly at 11:00pm,
      arrived at
      > 12:30am, drove home arriving at 2:00am, took a 2 hour nap and went
      to work. Now
      > I'm home and tired and bumming over the Mototown cancellation.
      Last night's
      > show was a model of efficiency, with 16 heats and 7 features run
      in 2 hours.
      > The stands were not open, and everyone had to buy a pit pass. I
      watched from a
      > perch on the pit lane wall. Standing next to me and watching his
      son, Chase,
      > win the young gun feature was Bill Elliott. It's great how they
      let him be
      > just another dad watching a child race. He was a very personable
      guy in this
      > setting. It was a new experience for me and a memorable way to get
      a milestone
      > number. Temperature at race time was a comfortable 62 degrees.
      Concession
      > prices were typical Humpy Wheeler high, but I was hungry and out
      of options. $12
      > to get in wasn't bad, though finding the building that sold the
      wrist bands
      > in the dark was an adventure. The man at the tunnel told me to go
      to the big
      > building with the green roof. At night, all roofs are darkly
      shaded, but
      > hardly green. Road the underground train at the ATL airport with 2
      of the Weather
      > Channel anchors. They did right by me this time. Adios.
      >
      > Gordy
      >
      >
      >
      > **************************************See AOL's top rated recipes
      > (http://food.aol.com/top-rated-recipes?NCID=aoltop00030000000004)
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
    • Steve Rixon
      Congratulations Gordy Spike & Linda [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Message 2 of 10 , Dec 16, 2007
        Congratulations Gordy

        Spike & Linda


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Will White
        SENILITY STRIKES AGAIN! I originally sent this report three days ago. Just now I realized that I had only sent it to myself rather than to the entire group.
        Message 3 of 10 , Dec 19, 2007
          SENILITY STRIKES AGAIN!

          I originally sent this report three days ago. Just now I realized that I
          had only sent it to myself rather than to the entire group. Better late
          than never I suppose.....

          I waited until the last few weeks of 2007, but I was successful in
          adding a new country to my track list for the 12th consecutive year.
          Costa Rica also became my 20th different country at which I watched
          racing. My expectations were exceeded on this trip and in fact I enjoyed
          the country so much that when it came time to head back to the airport I
          really wished I could have stayed for a week or two.

          Back in early August I was lucky enough to find airfare for about half
          the normal cost (total: $238.42) from New York's JFK to Juan Santamaria
          Int'l. Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, for the weekend of the track's
          annual season ending Three Hours of Costa Rica. I don't like booking
          that far ahead because race schedule changes are not uncommon, but since
          it was such a good price I decided to take a chance. The catch was I had
          to fly out of JFK at 5:30 AM, which meant leaving during the night on
          little or no sleep. Since Costa Rica was an interesting and attractive
          destination I wanted to do a little more than just show up for the
          races, so I decided to take a later flight back on Monday (6:20 PM).
          This also meant arriving home just about in time to get ready and go to
          work Tuesday morning with no sleep again. Oh well, I try to balance time
          and money and make the most of what little I have available.

          --FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7th, 2007--

          I managed to get a couple hours' sleep but was still dead tired when I
          headed out the door at 11:15 PM. I left a little early as there had been
          a little snow earlier in the evening, but everything was clear and I
          arrived at JFK's long term parking around 1:30 AM.

          --SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8th, 2007--

          Four and a half hours air time on my TACA Airlines flight. TACA's main
          hub is in El Salvador and I had flown with them to Guatemala in 2004.
          They are very friendly and inexpensive and there's a good chance I'll be
          using them again if I'm able to take more Central American TrackChasing
          trips in the future. Costa Rica is in the same time zone as US Central
          time or one hour behind my local time. Many of the passengers broke into
          applause when we touched down on the runway, just as they had done on my
          Guatemala trip.

          Although Costa Rica is in the northern hemisphere, the locals consider
          this time of year summer because it is the beginning of their dry
          season. The mountains, which went all the way around the horizon from
          where I was, were constantly covered in dark clouds, but the intense sun
          was out overhead for much of the time and there were just a couple
          showers that didn't affect my plans at all. This time of year is quite
          agreeable temperature wise as well. Daytime highs got only into the low
          80s (although in the sun it felt hotter) and in the evening it cooled
          nicely to around 60 or so.

          Thanks to Google's satellite imagery and maps I could study the area of
          Alajuela, the small city northwest of San Jose that is located just
          north of the airport. This was where i would be staying and close to all
          the places I planned to go while I was in Costa Rica. If not for the
          race I would have just taken taxis and/or buses to get around, but since
          it was several miles out into the country I thought it might be best to
          have my own car to go to the track. I also needed somewhere to keep my
          stuff on Monday since I'd be checking out of my room several hours
          before returning to the airport.

          Car rental was pretty cheap (3 day total was $86.85.) but it's mandatory
          to take out a certain kind of insurance there as well. Still at $123.
          for three days it wasn't too bad. Budget Car Rental claimed they were
          out of cars in my category so they "upgraded" me to a little Dahaitsu
          4WD SUV. Normally I don't like it when I'm upgraded because that usually
          means a lower fuel mileage vehicle, but as I wasn't driving far on this
          trip it was OK. I was instructed to go out front and look for the blue
          Budget van awaiting me. A young man immediately walked up to me and said
          "Budget?". He was very friendly and courteous, asking why I was there
          and I followed him as he carried my bag across to the shuttle. After
          putting my bag in the van he turned and asked me for a tip. That didn't
          sound right. Just then the van driver came over and said that wasn't
          necessary. It turned out the first guy was not affiliated with Budget
          and was just taking the initiative to try to make a little money on his
          own. I was taken to the off airport site, given my car and then the fun
          began.

          I had pretty well memorized the layout of the main streets in the areas
          I planned to travel to and had also drawn myself a little map.
          Interestingly in this day and age there are no names for the streets and
          roads in Costa Rica. They don't even have any in their mailing
          addresses. They just use directions such as "300 meters east of the
          courthouse towards the football stadium and then 300 meters north".
          Those were the directions to the very nice bed and breakfast where I
          stayed. Additional help came from adding "the 10th house on the right
          after the second speed bump, a 2 story house with a green balcony and a
          big cypress tree out front". I could have emailed the B&B for directions
          through town, but I thought it would be more fun to see if I could find
          the correct street just by studying the satellite imagery. I was only
          able to correctly guess which building was the courthouse because of its
          relation to the football stadium, which was unmistakeable.

          Due to their close proximity it was difficult to count houses as I
          drove, even at the very slow speed I was traveling because of the
          heavily potholed street. Roland warned that the roads were notoriously
          bad there and, although overall they were OK in Alajuela, the street
          where I stayed was the worst one I encountered. It seemed like a nice
          enough neighborhood but, sadly, all houses are fronted by iron bars
          and/or fences. I found a place to park on the street and walked up to a
          two story house with a green balcony. I couldn't get to the front door
          so I knocked a few times, ever louder, on the iron gate. Then I called
          out "Hola". Finally an elderly woman came to the front door. I always
          kick myself for not having gotten further in my Spanish studies, but the
          accent is generally very clear in Costa Rica and speech often slow
          enough that I was able to enjoy using my limited vocabulary on this
          trip. As it turned out, despite the explicit directions I had managed to
          go to the wrong house, though I only missed by four.

          Vida Tropical comes highly recommended and it did not disappoint in any
          way. They offer 6 rooms, 3 baths, free use of the computer w/ high speed
          internet access, a back porch serving as a lounge/breakfast room which
          overlooks a courtyard (I befriended the courtyard's resident rabbit,
          although there used to be a monkey living there which would have been
          more fun), kitchen which customers are allowed to use, assistance
          planning tours and transportation, etc. It's run by a couple with a
          toddler, a maid/cook and a young Wisconsinite who is there for the
          overnight shift. He laughingly referred to himself as an "illegal
          immigrant" because he just went to Costa Rica last year, took Spanish
          language immersion classes for 9 weeks, got a job and stayed there.
          Things are so laid back there he said nobody seems to care. If only we
          could have the same attitude in this country.

          After a short rest in my room it was still late morning, so even though
          I could have easily fallen asleep at that point I definitely wanted to
          get out and see something. My first destination was Zoo Ave (bird zoo),
          located a few miles west of the city. Thanks to Isabel giving me the
          name of a place to look for at the one turn off I had no problem finding
          this attraction. Back at the airport I had forgotten to get some Costa
          Rican colones from an ATM ($1.00 US=?450 CR) but I knew that Zoo Ave
          accepted payment in US dollars, as do many businesses in this country.
          So I could worry about obtaining local currency later. Admission to the
          zoo was $15. (their web site stated $13.) for foreigners and much less
          for Costa Ricans. It was a great way to get a little of a feel for the
          tropical forest without actually traveling out into the real rainforest.
          The entire zoo is outdoors, with concrete walkways winding up and down
          hill through heavy growth of trees with many of the animals fenced in
          and some free to roam. As the name implies it focuses mainly on bird
          species but there are many other animals as well (I liked the toucans
          and the monkeys). One thing they are known for is taking endangered
          species, breeding them and releasing them back to the wild. They also
          nurse injured birds back to health. The local visitors were friendly and
          helpful and this was a relaxing way to spend part of the afternoon.

          I didn't want to go to the airport to look for an ATM so I stopped at a
          spot just across the PanAmerican Highway from there where there were a
          few casinos and restaurants. I immediately found an ATM, called an ATH
          in Costa Rica (which stands for "a todos horas" or "at all hours"),
          inside the entrance to a casino and a Denny's, of all places. I was
          hungry so I decided to stay and eat at the Denny's. I loaded up on a
          garden salad, shrimp skewers with rice and mixed vegetables, a berry
          fruit drink and a slice of pecan pie. Tropical fruit drinks are big here
          and offer a very refreshing change from the usual soft drinks.

          After returning to Vida Tropical and settling into a chair on the porch
          with John, a visitor from the Bristol, VA, area who got to stay there as
          part of a timeshare exchange and later Greg, the "illegal immigrant", my
          lack of sleep got the best of me and I stayed in for the night.

          As a sidenote, each room at Vida Tropical has a name and a different
          figure painted on the walls of the room. I stayed in the gecko room. On
          the kitchen wall there is a series of trays, one corresponding to each
          room plus a larger one filled with beans. The frig is stocked with
          various drinks and is selfserve, using the honor system. Every time
          someone takes a drink from the frig they take one of the beans and place
          it in the tray corresponding to their room. Then at checkout time you
          count up the beans and the appropriate charge is added to the bill. I
          only had 3 beans for the 3 bottles of water I took, for which I was
          charged $4.00. If I had taken 3 beers the charge would have been the
          same. Actually you could say the entire visit is on the honor system. I
          went to the Vida Tropical web site and e-mailed them to reserve my room
          online. All they ever had was my name and e-mail address. They never
          asked for any other information or money during my entire stay, until I
          said I was checking out. That's extremely trusting in today's world. By
          the way, the cost for a single person in a room is $30. per night and
          for two people it's $45.

          --SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th, 2007--

          I had no idea when the race was scheduled to start today. I was
          expecting just a single 3 hour endurance race and figured it could start
          anywhere from 9:00 AM to as late as 2:00 PM. Thus I would go early and
          hope they started before noon so I'd have some time left to roam around
          town later. Being less than 10 degrees from the equator, even during
          their shortest days of the year the sun is up for about 11 hours a day,
          approximately 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM.

          So, I had a full night's sleep and got up in time for breakfast which
          begins at 7 'clock. Besides John and I it was just a young woman from
          Winnipeg at the breakfast table today. She had been in the country for a
          few weeks and was heading home later that day. There were 4 choices on
          the menu, 3 of which involved eggs and the fourth pancakes. Included for
          all was coffee, orange juice, bread and a plate with 5 or 6 types of
          tropical fruit. The portions were not large but everything was good.
          Norman, who not only helps run the B&B but also has a little Tex-Mex
          restaurant down the street, was interested in the TrackChasing hobby and
          kind of amazed (as most people are) at how I'd fly down there just for a
          couple days to go to a race. It was also interesting to hear his story
          as he relayed it to us.

          Before I knew it it was time to head out the door and off to Auto'dromo
          La Gua'cima. Although the track was probably less than 10 miles away it
          seemed much farther due to the slow driving speeds. Alajuela, which was
          packed with traffic on the main streets on Saturday afternoon, had very
          little on Sunday morning so I did manage to make the first half of the
          drive in good time. Once out of the city, the road to the track is full
          of potholes and has a few windy spots through some populated areas, so
          it still took just over a half hour and I reached the track around 9:00.
          I didn't know what to expect as far as race crowd and was a little
          surprised to find myself stopped in line before even reaching the side
          road that led to the track, with people walking from car to car offering
          tickets for sale.

          I proceeded to the grounds of the track and entered the official parking
          area. At the booth I paid ?2000 for parking and ?3500 for general
          admission (total approx. $12.22). There were also more expensive options
          for grandstands and pits. I was very satisfied with my choice, as it not
          only allowed me to walk around nearly the entire outside perimeter of
          the 3 km. paved road course, but also afforded the best views of large
          portions of the course from some vantage points.

          Practice was taking place as I entered. Some of the higher priced
          viewing areas were accessed via a couple of bridges that crossed the
          track into the infield. There were some covered stands in the infield as
          well as open stands along the outside of the start/finish straight. To
          get to the start/finish area I had to circle about 3/4 of the track's
          outer perimeter. There was just a narrow area around the outside, much
          of it marked with numbered reserved spots where fans could bring in
          their vehicles and/or place tents and have cookouts next to the fence.
          The track was confined in a fairly small area and had higher elevation
          in the middle, which made it easy to walk around and also possible to
          view up to nearly half of the circuit at one spot.

          What I thought was the one 3 hour race began at about 9:25. But when I
          noticed that all of the cars were basic street cars and there were
          highly modified GT cars in the practice session I knew there had to be
          more than one race. As it turned out, the "3 hours" was actually 9 short
          heats that totalled 3 hours. The most basic class had about 26 cars
          including 1 dune buggy with just a roll bar! The next support class was
          also 4 cylinder cars but they were a bit more modified. There were 16 of
          those. The main category was for GT cars, but they were divided into the
          big GT1s such as Corvettes, Trans-Ams and Porsches (16) and the smaller
          GT3s (24). For these they started the small cars a couple hundred yards
          behind the big ones. Each of these 3 categories alternated and ran 3
          heats. This was an example of an event where there were no "features" as
          such, just 3 equal counting heats for each car. The time breakdown for
          each race was 35 minutes for the GTs, 15 minutes for the intermediate
          class and 10 minutes for the basic class.

          For the top class this event was the final points round of the 2007
          Central American Championship. Besides Costa Rica there were competitors
          from Guatemala and Trinadad & Tobago, at least. A man came around during
          the races and handed me a copy of a racing magazine called Mundo
          Motorizado. In it I learned that they are planning to start a new
          formula car class next year at some of the Central American tracks.

          By the time the GT cars ran their first heat, which started at almost 11
          o'clock, the crowd had grown to at least a few thousand. Parking was
          very tight and I imagined there'd be quite a mess trying to get out at
          the end of the day. I stayed for 5 hours, saw 6 races totalling 2 hours
          of actual racing, enjoyed the track, the racing, the people. I took in
          quite a bit of sun and wind and did a fair amount of walking. The
          experience was very enjoyable and I certainly felt I got my money's
          worth at the track. By 2 o'clock the second round of heats was complete
          and I was on my way out. There was practically no traffic at that time
          getting out and I was soon back in Alajuela at the bed and breakfast.

          After sitting with John on the porch for a while and learning that he
          planned to have a Papa John's pizza delivered for his dinner (several
          places, also including Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King will
          deliver free to the Hotel Vida Tropical) I decided to take a walk
          through town and look for something a little less familiar. It was
          already getting close to sunset as I walked through the narrow streets,
          which are all laid out in a grid pattern in the city center. This area
          was wall to wall people and cars when I returned from the race but by
          late afternoon it had thinned out considerably, although still fairly
          busy. The vendors at Parque Central, the little square block park in the
          middle of it all, had already packed up and gone for the day.

          As I walked I noticed many very small eating places but most of them
          were for fried chicken, tacos, hotdogs, etc. A few blocks from my room
          was a big football (soccer) stadium and I noticed that the floodlights
          had been turned on. I figured I'd walk that way and check out what was
          happening. There was apparently a pretty big game tonight. The stands
          were already pretty packed with people and there were groups of
          policemen standing on all the street corners for a couple blocks in each
          direction. Although I don't follow any sports I thought it would be an
          interesting experience to attend a big football game in a country where
          this is a huge deal. As I approached the row of ticket windows I noticed
          there were four different words on signs taped on the windows. I didn't
          know what was meant by any of them but I figured I only had a 25% chance
          of choosing the right line and not making a fool of myself in front of a
          line of people. Plus, even if I did get lucky buying the ticket, once
          inside the stadium I'd have to locate my seat amongst all those
          thousands of people. Thus, I chickened out.

          Finally after walking a while longer I stopped at a little Italian
          restaurant. I was immediately handed a menu, made my selection of
          "espaghuetti mixto" and a large bottle of tropical fruit juice and chose
          a table. I had a bowl of spaghetti with ham and chicken, plus garlic
          bread. The staff and other patrons of the restaurant were soon all glued
          to the television set in the corner which was broadcasting the game,
          especially for the numerous replays of a goal during which the TV
          commentator went wild. Drat, if only I was at the game. After paying my
          dinner bill of ?3000 ($6.67) I returned to the hotel as it was now after
          dark.

          --MONDAY, DECEMBER 10th, 2007--

          I had to get going even earlier today to get the most from my planned
          destination. We had a full table of 6 at breakfast this time, with a
          50ish Swedish couple, a 20ish French couple, plus John and I. It's
          always interesting to hear from world travelers but I wanted to be on
          the road by 7:45. I would be driving back past the race track and a
          couple miles beyond to visit the Butterfly Farm. This is one of the most
          popular attractions in the area and is actually a lot more interesting
          than it may sound, at least for anyone who is at all interested in
          nature and animals. Traffic turned out to be lighter than expected
          again, which was good because I wanted to be there when they opened at
          8:30. This was recommended as the best time to go. The Butterfly Farm
          cost $15, but I paid in colones and figured it would probably be cheaper
          that way. I was wrong. It cost ?7200. Anyway, included with admission is
          a guided tour in your language of choice. I was very surprised to find
          the small parking area completely empty on my arrival and no other
          visitors on site. I thought there'd at least be a couple dozen tourists
          arriving on a bus or something.

          After watching a 25 minute video I exited the movie room to find that
          the young French couple from my hotel had just arrived by public bus. So
          it would be just the three of us for the remainder of the tour. Costa
          Rica has hundreds of different species of butterflies. At the farm they
          are captured, bred and re-released to the local area. On the tour we got
          to see every stage of their lives from the laying of eggs through the
          larva, pupa and adult stages. We also saw how they take the pupa and box
          them up to be shipped to museums, shows, etc. There are about a thousand
          butterflies in the main enclosure and they are very used to being around
          people. In fact, one large black one became attracted to me and decided
          to sit on my face for forty minutes. It spent about 10 minutes on my
          mouth and the rest was split between my right cheek and my nose. The
          Frenchman took a few pictures of it with my camera, but we couldn't get
          the butterfly to open its wings so the pictures aren't as neat as they
          would have been. The others had a few good laughs as we walked around on
          the tour and this butterfly rode along on my lips. The guide said it may
          have been sucking salt from my skin, but I think perhaps it was enjoying
          some of that tropical fruit I had eaten for breakfast a couple hours
          earlier. She also said they once had a pair of butterflies mating on a
          boy's pants leg and it took her a while to break up the act.
          Surprisingly they mate for 8 to 10 hours at a time and the boy could
          have been there all day otherwise.

          I hadn't used hardly any of my Costa Rican money so at the end of the
          tour I did some holiday shopping at the gift shop and had just enough
          left to top off the gas tank before returning it to Budget that
          afternoon. I don't know if I was scammed at the gas station, but if so
          it wasn't for much anyway. I pulled up to the pump and the attendant
          immediately told me there was no regular gas, only super. It was only 8
          liters and the difference in price was minimal so I didn't mind either
          way, although it did leave me with just enough money that I couldn't
          really have a meal before returning to the airport. With a few hours to
          kill I went for a little drive, then parked on a side street in town and
          did a combination of walking and relaxing in a couple little parks.

          --TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11th, 2007--

          The plane that would take me home from Costa Rica was almost an hour
          late arriving there, which pushed back my departure and I finally got
          out of JFK around 2:00 AM and pulled into the driveway at home at 4:04.
          After a shower and change of clothes I was off to work for an 8 hour
          shift before finally hitting the hay that afternoon. With 20 countries I
          guess I can now say I am a true international TrackChaser. I believe
          this was my worst year since 1990 in total number of new tracks but at
          least I finished off 2007 with a very memorable and enjoyable trip.

          Will
        • Will White
          I waited until the last few weeks of 2007, but I was successful in adding a new country to my track list for the 12th consecutive year. Costa Rica also became
          Message 4 of 10 , Dec 19, 2007
            I waited until the last few weeks of 2007, but I was successful in
            adding a new country to my track list for the 12th consecutive year.
            Costa Rica also became my 20th different country at which I watched
            racing. My expectations were exceeded on this trip and in fact I enjoyed
            the country so much that when it came time to head back to the airport I
            really wished I could have stayed for a week or two.

            Back in early August I was lucky enough to find airfare for about half
            the normal cost (total: $238.42) from New York's JFK to Juan Santamaria
            Int'l. Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, for the weekend of the track's
            annual season ending Three Hours of Costa Rica. I don't like booking
            that far ahead because race schedule changes are not uncommon, but since
            it was such a good price I decided to take a chance. The catch was I had
            to fly out of JFK at 5:30 AM, which meant leaving during the night on
            little or no sleep. Since Costa Rica was an interesting and attractive
            destination I wanted to do a little more than just show up for the
            races, so I decided to take a later flight back on Monday (6:20 PM).
            This also meant arriving home just about in time to get ready and go to
            work Tuesday morning with no sleep again. Oh well, I try to balance time
            and money and make the most of what little I have available.

            --FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7th, 2007--

            I managed to get a couple hours' sleep but was still dead tired when I
            headed out the door at 11:15 PM. I left a little early as there had been
            a little snow earlier in the evening, but everything was clear and I
            arrived at JFK's long term parking around 1:30 AM.

            --SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8th, 2007--

            Four and a half hours air time on my TACA Airlines flight. TACA's main
            hub is in El Salvador and I had flown with them to Guatemala in 2004.
            They are very friendly and inexpensive and there's a good chance I'll be
            using them again if I'm able to take more Central American TrackChasing
            trips in the future. Costa Rica is in the same time zone as US Central
            time or one hour behind my local time. Many of the passengers broke into
            applause when we touched down on the runway, just as they had done on my
            Guatemala trip.

            Although Costa Rica is in the northern hemisphere, the locals consider
            this time of year winter because it is the beginning of their dry
            season. The mountains, which went all the way around the horizon from
            where I was, were constantly covered in dark clouds, but the intense sun
            was out overhead for much of the time and there were just a couple
            showers that didn't affect my plans at all. This time of year is quite
            agreeable temperature wise as well. Daytime highs got only into the low
            80s (although in the sun it felt hotter) and in the evening it cooled
            nicely to around 60 or so.

            Thanks to Google's satellite imagery and maps I could study the area of
            Alajuela, the small city northwest of San Jose that is located just
            north of the airport. This was where i would be staying and close to all
            the places I planned to go while I was in Costa Rica. If not for the
            race I would have just taken taxis and/or buses to get around, but since
            it was several miles out into the country I thought it might be best to
            have my own car to go to the track. I also needed somewhere to keep my
            stuff on Monday since I'd be checking out of my room several hours
            before returning to the airport.

            Car rental was pretty cheap (3 day total was $86.85.) but it's mandatory
            to take out a certain kind of insurance there as well. Still at $123.
            for three days it wasn't too bad. Budget Car Rental claimed they were
            out of cars in my category so they "upgraded" me to a little Dahaitsu
            4WD SUV. Normally I don't like it when I'm upgraded because that usually
            means a lower fuel mileage vehicle, but as I wasn't driving far on this
            trip it was OK. I was instructed to go out front and look for the blue
            Budget van awaiting me. A young man immediately walked up to me and said
            "Budget?". He was very friendly and courteous, asking why I was there
            and I followed him as he carried my bag across to the shuttle. After
            putting my bag in the van he turned and asked me for a tip. That didn't
            sound right. Just then the van driver came over and said that wasn't
            necessary. It turned out the first guy was not affiliated with Budget
            and was just taking the initiative to try to make a little money on his
            own. I was taken to the off airport site, given my car and then the fun
            began.

            I had pretty well memorized the layout of the main streets in the areas
            I planned to travel to and had also drawn myself a little map.
            Interestingly in this day and age there are no names for the streets and
            roads in Costa Rica. They don't even have any in their mailing
            addresses. They just use directions such as "300 meters east of the
            courthouse towards the football stadium and then 300 meters north".
            Those were the directions to the very nice bed and breakfast where I
            stayed. Additional help came from adding "the 10th house on the right
            after the second speed bump, a 2 story house with a green balcony and a
            big cypress tree out front". I could have emailed the B&B for directions
            through town, but I thought it would be more fun to see if I could find
            the correct street just by studying the satellite imagery. I was only
            able to correctly guess which building was the courthouse because of its
            relation to the football stadium, which was unmistakeable.

            Due to their close proximity it was difficult to count houses as I
            drove, even at the very slow speed I was traveling because of the
            heavily potholed street. Roland warned that the roads were notoriously
            bad there and, although overall they were OK in Alajuela, the street
            where I stayed was the worst one I encountered. It seemed like a nice
            enough neighborhood but, sadly, all houses are fronted by iron bars
            and/or fences. I found a place to park on the street and walked up to a
            two story house with a green balcony. I couldn't get to the front door
            so I knocked a few times, ever louder, on the iron gate. Then I called
            out "Hola". Finally an elderly woman came to the front door. I always
            kick myself for not having gotten further in my Spanish studies, but the
            accent is generally very clear in Costa Rica and speech often slow
            enough that I was able to enjoy using my limited vocabulary on this
            trip. As it turned out, despite the explicit directions I had managed to
            go to the wrong house, though I only missed by four.

            Vida Tropical comes highly recommended and it did not disappoint in any
            way. They offer 6 rooms, 3 baths, free use of the computer w/ high speed
            internet access, a back porch serving as a lounge/breakfast room which
            overlooks a courtyard (I befriended the courtyard's resident rabbit,
            although there used to be a monkey living there which would have been
            more fun), kitchen which customers are allowed to use, assistance
            planning tours and transportation, etc. It's run by a couple with a
            toddler, a maid/cook and a young Wisconsinite who is there for the
            overnight shift. He laughingly referred to himself as an "illegal
            immigrant" because he just went to Costa Rica last year, took Spanish
            language immersion classes for 9 weeks, got a job and stayed there.
            Things are so laid back there he said nobody seems to care. If only we
            could have the same attitude in this country.

            After a short rest in my room it was still late morning, so even though
            I could have easily fallen asleep at that point I definitely wanted to
            get out and see something. My first destination was Zoo Ave (bird zoo),
            located a few miles west of the city. Thanks to Isabel giving me the
            name of a place to look for at the one turn off I had no problem finding
            this attraction. Back at the airport I had forgotten to get some Costa
            Rican colones from an ATM ($1.00 US=¢450 CR) but I knew that Zoo Ave
            accepted payment in US dollars, as do many businesses in this country.
            So I could worry about obtaining local currency later. Admission to the
            zoo was $15. (their web site stated $13.) for foreigners and much less
            for Costa Ricans. It was a great way to get a little of a feel for the
            tropical forest without actually traveling out into the real rainforest.
            The entire zoo is outdoors, with concrete walkways winding up and down
            hill through heavy growth of trees with many of the animals fenced in
            and some free to roam. As the name implies it focuses mainly on bird
            species but there are many other animals as well (I liked the toucans
            and the monkeys). One thing they are known for is taking endangered
            species, breeding them and releasing them back to the wild. They also
            nurse injured birds back to health. The local visitors were friendly and
            helpful and this was a relaxing way to spend part of the afternoon.

            I didn't want to go to the airport to look for an ATM so I stopped at a
            spot just across the PanAmerican Highway from there where there were a
            few casinos and restaurants. I immediately found an ATM, called an ATH
            in Costa Rica (which stands for "a todos horas" or "at all hours"),
            inside the entrance to a casino and a Denny's, of all places. I was
            hungry so I decided to stay and eat at the Denny's. I loaded up on a
            garden salad, shrimp skewers with rice and mixed vegetables, a berry
            fruit drink and a slice of pecan pie. Tropical fruit drinks are big here
            and offer a very refreshing change from the usual soft drinks.

            After returning to Vida Tropical and settling into a chair on the porch
            with John, a visitor from the Bristol, VA, area who got to stay there as
            part of a timeshare exchange and later Greg, the "illegal immigrant", my
            lack of sleep got the best of me and I stayed in for the night.

            As a sidenote, each room at Vida Tropical has a name and a different
            figure painted on the walls of the room. I stayed in the gecko room. On
            the kitchen wall there is a series of trays, one corresponding to each
            room plus a larger one filled with beans. The frig is stocked with
            various drinks and is selfserve, using the honor system. Every time
            someone takes a drink from the frig they take one of the beans and place
            it in the tray corresponding to their room. Then at checkout time you
            count up the beans and the appropriate charge is added to the bill. I
            only had 3 beans for the 3 bottles of water I took, for which I was
            charged $4.00. If I had taken 3 beers the charge would have been the
            same. Actually you could say the entire visit is on the honor system. I
            went to the Vida Tropical web site and e-mailed them to reserve my room
            online. All they ever had was my name and e-mail address. They never
            asked for any other information or money during my entire stay, until I
            said I was checking out. That's extremely trusting in today's world. By
            the way, the cost for a single person in a room is $30. per night and
            for two people it's $45.

            --SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th, 2007--

            I had no idea when the race was scheduled to start today. I was
            expecting just a single 3 hour endurance race and figured it could start
            anywhere from 9:00 AM to as late as 2:00 PM. Thus I would go early and
            hope they started before noon so I'd have some time left to roam around
            town later. Being less than 10 degrees from the equator, even during
            their shortest days of the year the sun is up for about 11 hours a day,
            approximately 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM.

            So, I had a full night's sleep and got up in time for breakfast which
            begins at 7 'clock. Besides John and I it was just a young woman from
            Winnipeg at the breakfast table today. She had been in the country for a
            few weeks and was heading home later that day. There were 4 choices on
            the menu, 3 of which involved eggs and the fourth pancakes. Included for
            all was coffee, orange juice, bread and a plate with 5 or 6 types of
            tropical fruit. The portions were not large but everything was good.
            Norman, who not only helps run the B&B but also has a little Tex-Mex
            restaurant down the street, was interested in the TrackChasing hobby and
            kind of amazed (as most people are) at how I'd fly down there just for a
            couple days to go to a race. It was also interesting to hear his story
            as he relayed it to us.

            Before I knew it it was time to head out the door and off to Autódromo
            La Guácima. Although the track was probably less than 10 miles away it
            seemed much farther due to the slow driving speeds. Alajuela, which was
            packed with traffic on the main streets on Saturday afternoon, had very
            little on Sunday morning so I did manage to make the first half of the
            drive in good time. Once out of the city, the road to the track is full
            of potholes and has a few windy spots through some populated areas, so
            it still took just over a half hour and I reached the track around 9:00.
            I didn't know what to expect as far as race crowd and was a little
            surprised to find myself stopped in line before even reaching the side
            road that led to the track, with people walking from car to car offering
            tickets for sale.

            I proceeded to the grounds of the track and entered the official parking
            area. At the booth I paid ¢2000 for parking and ¢3500 for general
            admission (total approx. $12.22). There were also more expensive options
            for grandstands and pits. I was very satisfied with my choice, as it not
            only allowed me to walk around nearly the entire outside perimeter of
            the 3 km. paved road course, but also afforded the best views of large
            portions of the course from some vantage points.

            Practice was taking place as I entered. Some of the higher priced
            viewing areas were accessed via a couple of bridges that crossed the
            track into the infield. There were some covered stands in the infield as
            well as open stands along the outside of the start/finish straight. To
            get to the start/finish area I had to circle about 3/4 of the track's
            outer perimeter. There was just a narrow area around the outside, much
            of it marked with numbered reserved spots where fans could bring in
            their vehicles and/or place tents and have cookouts next to the fence.
            The track was confined in a fairly small area and had higher elevation
            in the middle, which made it easy to walk around and also possible to
            view up to nearly half of the circuit at one spot.

            What I thought was the one 3 hour race began at about 9:25. But when I
            noticed that all of the cars were basic street cars and there were
            highly modified GT cars in the practice session I knew there had to be
            more than one race. As it turned out, the "3 hours" was actually 9 short
            heats that totalled 3 hours. The most basic class had about 26 cars
            including 1 dune buggy with just a roll bar! The next support class was
            also 4 cylinder cars but they were a bit more modified. There were 16 of
            those. The main category was for GT cars, but they were divided into the
            big GT1s such as Corvettes, Trans-Ams and Porsches (16) and the smaller
            GT3s (24). For these they started the small cars a couple hundred yards
            behind the big ones. Each of these 3 categories alternated and ran 3
            heats. This was an example of an event where there were no "features" as
            such, just 3 equal counting heats for each car. The time breakdown for
            each race was 35 minutes for the GTs, 15 minutes for the intermediate
            class and 10 minutes for the basic class.

            For the top class this event was the final points round of the 2007
            Central American Championship. Besides Costa Rica there were competitors
            from Guatemala and Trinadad & Tobago, at least. A man came around during
            the races and handed me a copy of a racing magazine called Mundo
            Motorizado. In it I learned that they are planning to start a new
            formula car class next year at some of the Central American tracks.

            By the time the GT cars ran their first heat, which started at almost 11
            o'clock, the crowd had grown to at least a few thousand. Parking was
            very tight and I imagined there'd be quite a mess trying to get out at
            the end of the day. I stayed for 5 hours, saw 6 races totalling 2 hours
            of actual racing, enjoyed the track, the racing, the people. I took in
            quite a bit of sun and wind and did a fair amount of walking. The
            experience was very enjoyable and I certainly felt I got my money's
            worth at the track. By 2 o'clock the second round of heats was complete
            and I was on my way out. There was practically no traffic at that time
            getting out and I was soon back in Alajuela at the bed and breakfast.

            After sitting with John on the porch for a while and learning that he
            planned to have a Papa John's pizza delivered for his dinner (several
            places, also including Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King will
            deliver free to the Hotel Vida Tropical) I decided to take a walk
            through town and look for something a little less familiar. It was
            already getting close to sunset as I walked through the narrow streets,
            which are all laid out in a grid pattern in the city center. This area
            was wall to wall people and cars when I returned from the race but by
            late afternoon it had thinned out considerably, although still fairly
            busy. The vendors at Parque Central, the little square block park in the
            middle of it all, had already packed up and gone for the day.

            As I walked I noticed many very small eating places but most of them
            were for fried chicken, tacos, hotdogs, etc. A few blocks from my room
            was a big football (soccer) stadium and I noticed that the floodlights
            had been turned on. I figured I'd walk that way and check out what was
            happening. There was apparently a pretty big game tonight. The stands
            were already pretty packed with people and there were groups of
            policemen standing on all the street corners for a couple blocks in each
            direction. Although I don't follow any sports I thought it would be an
            interesting experience to attend a big football game in a country where
            this is a huge deal. As I approached the row of ticket windows I noticed
            there were four different words on signs taped on the windows. I didn't
            know what was meant by any of them but I figured I only had a 25% chance
            of choosing the right line and not making a fool of myself in front of a
            line of people. Plus, even if I did get lucky buying the ticket, once
            inside the stadium I'd have to locate my seat amongst all those
            thousands of people. Thus, I chickened out.

            Finally after walking a while longer I stopped at a little Italian
            restaurant. I was immediately handed a menu, made my selection of
            "espaghuetti mixto" and a large bottle of tropical fruit juice and chose
            a table. I had a bowl of spaghetti with ham and chicken, plus garlic
            bread. The staff and other patrons of the restaurant were soon all glued
            to the television set in the corner which was broadcasting the game,
            especially for the numerous replays of a goal during which the TV
            commentator went wild. Drat, if only I was at the game. After paying my
            dinner bill of ¢3000 ($6.67) I returned to the hotel as it was now after
            dark.

            --MONDAY, DECEMBER 10th, 2007--

            I had to get going even earlier today to get the most from my planned
            destination. We had a full table of 6 at breakfast this time, with a
            50ish Swedish couple, a 20ish French couple, plus John and I. It's
            always interesting to hear from world travelers but I wanted to be on
            the road by 7:45. I would be driving back past the race track and a
            couple miles beyond to visit the Butterfly Farm. This is one of the most
            popular attractions in the area and is actually a lot more interesting
            than it may sound, at least for anyone who is at all interested in
            nature and animals. Traffic turned out to be lighter than expected
            again, which was good because I wanted to be there when they opened at
            8:30. This was recommended as the best time to go. The Butterfly Farm
            cost $15, but I paid in colones and figured it would probably be cheaper
            that way. I was wrong. It cost ¢7200. Anyway, included with admission is
            a guided tour in your language of choice. I was very surprised to find
            the small parking area completely empty on my arrival and no other
            visitors on site. I thought there'd at least be a couple dozen tourists
            arriving on a bus or something.

            After watching a 25 minute video I exited the movie room to find that
            the young French couple from my hotel had just arrived by public bus. So
            it would be just the three of us for the remainder of the tour. Costa
            Rica has hundreds of different species of butterflies. At the farm they
            are captured, bred and re-released to the local area. On the tour we got
            to see every stage of their lives from the laying of eggs through the
            larva, pupa and adult stages. We also saw how they take the pupa and box
            them up to be shipped to museums, shows, etc. There are about a thousand
            butterflies in the main enclosure and they are very used to being around
            people. In fact, one large black one became attracted to me and decided
            to sit on my face for forty minutes. It spent about 10 minutes on my
            mouth and the rest was split between my right cheek and my nose. The
            Frenchman took a few pictures of it with my camera, but we couldn't get
            the butterfly to open its wings so the pictures aren't as neat as they
            would have been. The others had a few good laughs as we walked around on
            the tour and this butterfly rode along on my lips. The guide said it may
            have been sucking salt from my skin, but I think perhaps it was enjoying
            some of that tropical fruit I had eaten for breakfast a couple hours
            earlier. She also said they once had a pair of butterflies mating on a
            boy's pants leg and it took her a while to break up the act.
            Surprisingly they mate for 8 to 10 hours at a time and the boy could
            have been there all day otherwise.

            I hadn't used hardly any of my Costa Rican money so at the end of the
            tour I did some holiday shopping at the gift shop and had just enough
            left to top off the gas tank before returning it to Budget that
            afternoon. I don't know if I was scammed at the gas station, but if so
            it wasn't for much anyway. I pulled up to the pump and the attendant
            immediately told me there was no regular gas, only super. It was only 8
            liters and the difference in price was minimal so I didn't mind either
            way, although it did leave me with just enough money that I couldn't
            really have a meal before returning to the airport. With a few hours to
            kill I went for a little drive, then parked on a side street in town and
            did a combination of walking and relaxing in a couple little parks.


            --TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11th, 2007--

            The plane that would take me home from Costa Rica was almost an hour
            late arriving there, which pushed back my departure and I finally got
            out of JFK around 2:00 AM and pulled into the driveway at home at 4:04.
            After a shower and change of clothes I was off to work for an 8 hour
            shift before finally hitting the hay that afternoon. With 20 countries I
            guess I can now say I am a true international TrackChaser. I believe
            this was my worst year since 1990 in total number of new tracks but at
            least I finished off 2007 with a very memorable and enjoyable trip.

            Will
          • colin herridge
            Sounds tho you had a great trip Will Colin Will White wrote: SENILITY STRIKES AGAIN! I originally sent this report three days ago.
            Message 5 of 10 , Dec 19, 2007
              Sounds tho you had a great trip Will
              Colin

              Will White <trackchaser@...> wrote:
              SENILITY STRIKES AGAIN!

              I originally sent this report three days ago. Just now I realized that I
              had only sent it to myself rather than to the entire group. Better late
              than never I suppose.....

              I waited until the last few weeks of 2007, but I was successful in
              adding a new country to my track list for the 12th consecutive year.
              Costa Rica also became my 20th different country at which I watched
              racing. My expectations were exceeded on this trip and in fact I enjoyed
              the country so much that when it came time to head back to the airport I
              really wished I could have stayed for a week or two.

              Back in early August I was lucky enough to find airfare for about half
              the normal cost (total: $238.42) from New York's JFK to Juan Santamaria
              Int'l. Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, for the weekend of the track's
              annual season ending Three Hours of Costa Rica. I don't like booking
              that far ahead because race schedule changes are not uncommon, but since
              it was such a good price I decided to take a chance. The catch was I had
              to fly out of JFK at 5:30 AM, which meant leaving during the night on
              little or no sleep. Since Costa Rica was an interesting and attractive
              destination I wanted to do a little more than just show up for the
              races, so I decided to take a later flight back on Monday (6:20 PM).
              This also meant arriving home just about in time to get ready and go to
              work Tuesday morning with no sleep again. Oh well, I try to balance time
              and money and make the most of what little I have available.

              --FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7th, 2007--

              I managed to get a couple hours' sleep but was still dead tired when I
              headed out the door at 11:15 PM. I left a little early as there had been
              a little snow earlier in the evening, but everything was clear and I
              arrived at JFK's long term parking around 1:30 AM.

              --SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8th, 2007--

              Four and a half hours air time on my TACA Airlines flight. TACA's main
              hub is in El Salvador and I had flown with them to Guatemala in 2004.
              They are very friendly and inexpensive and there's a good chance I'll be
              using them again if I'm able to take more Central American TrackChasing
              trips in the future. Costa Rica is in the same time zone as US Central
              time or one hour behind my local time. Many of the passengers broke into
              applause when we touched down on the runway, just as they had done on my
              Guatemala trip.

              Although Costa Rica is in the northern hemisphere, the locals consider
              this time of year summer because it is the beginning of their dry
              season. The mountains, which went all the way around the horizon from
              where I was, were constantly covered in dark clouds, but the intense sun
              was out overhead for much of the time and there were just a couple
              showers that didn't affect my plans at all. This time of year is quite
              agreeable temperature wise as well. Daytime highs got only into the low
              80s (although in the sun it felt hotter) and in the evening it cooled
              nicely to around 60 or so.

              Thanks to Google's satellite imagery and maps I could study the area of
              Alajuela, the small city northwest of San Jose that is located just
              north of the airport. This was where i would be staying and close to all
              the places I planned to go while I was in Costa Rica. If not for the
              race I would have just taken taxis and/or buses to get around, but since
              it was several miles out into the country I thought it might be best to
              have my own car to go to the track. I also needed somewhere to keep my
              stuff on Monday since I'd be checking out of my room several hours
              before returning to the airport.

              Car rental was pretty cheap (3 day total was $86.85.) but it's mandatory
              to take out a certain kind of insurance there as well. Still at $123.
              for three days it wasn't too bad. Budget Car Rental claimed they were
              out of cars in my category so they "upgraded" me to a little Dahaitsu
              4WD SUV. Normally I don't like it when I'm upgraded because that usually
              means a lower fuel mileage vehicle, but as I wasn't driving far on this
              trip it was OK. I was instructed to go out front and look for the blue
              Budget van awaiting me. A young man immediately walked up to me and said
              "Budget?". He was very friendly and courteous, asking why I was there
              and I followed him as he carried my bag across to the shuttle. After
              putting my bag in the van he turned and asked me for a tip. That didn't
              sound right. Just then the van driver came over and said that wasn't
              necessary. It turned out the first guy was not affiliated with Budget
              and was just taking the initiative to try to make a little money on his
              own. I was taken to the off airport site, given my car and then the fun
              began.

              I had pretty well memorized the layout of the main streets in the areas
              I planned to travel to and had also drawn myself a little map.
              Interestingly in this day and age there are no names for the streets and
              roads in Costa Rica. They don't even have any in their mailing
              addresses. They just use directions such as "300 meters east of the
              courthouse towards the football stadium and then 300 meters north".
              Those were the directions to the very nice bed and breakfast where I
              stayed. Additional help came from adding "the 10th house on the right
              after the second speed bump, a 2 story house with a green balcony and a
              big cypress tree out front". I could have emailed the B&B for directions
              through town, but I thought it would be more fun to see if I could find
              the correct street just by studying the satellite imagery. I was only
              able to correctly guess which building was the courthouse because of its
              relation to the football stadium, which was unmistakeable.

              Due to their close proximity it was difficult to count houses as I
              drove, even at the very slow speed I was traveling because of the
              heavily potholed street. Roland warned that the roads were notoriously
              bad there and, although overall they were OK in Alajuela, the street
              where I stayed was the worst one I encountered. It seemed like a nice
              enough neighborhood but, sadly, all houses are fronted by iron bars
              and/or fences. I found a place to park on the street and walked up to a
              two story house with a green balcony. I couldn't get to the front door
              so I knocked a few times, ever louder, on the iron gate. Then I called
              out "Hola". Finally an elderly woman came to the front door. I always
              kick myself for not having gotten further in my Spanish studies, but the
              accent is generally very clear in Costa Rica and speech often slow
              enough that I was able to enjoy using my limited vocabulary on this
              trip. As it turned out, despite the explicit directions I had managed to
              go to the wrong house, though I only missed by four.

              Vida Tropical comes highly recommended and it did not disappoint in any
              way. They offer 6 rooms, 3 baths, free use of the computer w/ high speed
              internet access, a back porch serving as a lounge/breakfast room which
              overlooks a courtyard (I befriended the courtyard's resident rabbit,
              although there used to be a monkey living there which would have been
              more fun), kitchen which customers are allowed to use, assistance
              planning tours and transportation, etc. It's run by a couple with a
              toddler, a maid/cook and a young Wisconsinite who is there for the
              overnight shift. He laughingly referred to himself as an "illegal
              immigrant" because he just went to Costa Rica last year, took Spanish
              language immersion classes for 9 weeks, got a job and stayed there.
              Things are so laid back there he said nobody seems to care. If only we
              could have the same attitude in this country.

              After a short rest in my room it was still late morning, so even though
              I could have easily fallen asleep at that point I definitely wanted to
              get out and see something. My first destination was Zoo Ave (bird zoo),
              located a few miles west of the city. Thanks to Isabel giving me the
              name of a place to look for at the one turn off I had no problem finding
              this attraction. Back at the airport I had forgotten to get some Costa
              Rican colones from an ATM ($1.00 US=?450 CR) but I knew that Zoo Ave
              accepted payment in US dollars, as do many businesses in this country.
              So I could worry about obtaining local currency later. Admission to the
              zoo was $15. (their web site stated $13.) for foreigners and much less
              for Costa Ricans. It was a great way to get a little of a feel for the
              tropical forest without actually traveling out into the real rainforest.
              The entire zoo is outdoors, with concrete walkways winding up and down
              hill through heavy growth of trees with many of the animals fenced in
              and some free to roam. As the name implies it focuses mainly on bird
              species but there are many other animals as well (I liked the toucans
              and the monkeys). One thing they are known for is taking endangered
              species, breeding them and releasing them back to the wild. They also
              nurse injured birds back to health. The local visitors were friendly and
              helpful and this was a relaxing way to spend part of the afternoon.

              I didn't want to go to the airport to look for an ATM so I stopped at a
              spot just across the PanAmerican Highway from there where there were a
              few casinos and restaurants. I immediately found an ATM, called an ATH
              in Costa Rica (which stands for "a todos horas" or "at all hours"),
              inside the entrance to a casino and a Denny's, of all places. I was
              hungry so I decided to stay and eat at the Denny's. I loaded up on a
              garden salad, shrimp skewers with rice and mixed vegetables, a berry
              fruit drink and a slice of pecan pie. Tropical fruit drinks are big here
              and offer a very refreshing change from the usual soft drinks.

              After returning to Vida Tropical and settling into a chair on the porch
              with John, a visitor from the Bristol, VA, area who got to stay there as
              part of a timeshare exchange and later Greg, the "illegal immigrant", my
              lack of sleep got the best of me and I stayed in for the night.

              As a sidenote, each room at Vida Tropical has a name and a different
              figure painted on the walls of the room. I stayed in the gecko room. On
              the kitchen wall there is a series of trays, one corresponding to each
              room plus a larger one filled with beans. The frig is stocked with
              various drinks and is selfserve, using the honor system. Every time
              someone takes a drink from the frig they take one of the beans and place
              it in the tray corresponding to their room. Then at checkout time you
              count up the beans and the appropriate charge is added to the bill. I
              only had 3 beans for the 3 bottles of water I took, for which I was
              charged $4.00. If I had taken 3 beers the charge would have been the
              same. Actually you could say the entire visit is on the honor system. I
              went to the Vida Tropical web site and e-mailed them to reserve my room
              online. All they ever had was my name and e-mail address. They never
              asked for any other information or money during my entire stay, until I
              said I was checking out. That's extremely trusting in today's world. By
              the way, the cost for a single person in a room is $30. per night and
              for two people it's $45.

              --SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th, 2007--

              I had no idea when the race was scheduled to start today. I was
              expecting just a single 3 hour endurance race and figured it could start
              anywhere from 9:00 AM to as late as 2:00 PM. Thus I would go early and
              hope they started before noon so I'd have some time left to roam around
              town later. Being less than 10 degrees from the equator, even during
              their shortest days of the year the sun is up for about 11 hours a day,
              approximately 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM.

              So, I had a full night's sleep and got up in time for breakfast which
              begins at 7 'clock. Besides John and I it was just a young woman from
              Winnipeg at the breakfast table today. She had been in the country for a
              few weeks and was heading home later that day. There were 4 choices on
              the menu, 3 of which involved eggs and the fourth pancakes. Included for
              all was coffee, orange juice, bread and a plate with 5 or 6 types of
              tropical fruit. The portions were not large but everything was good.
              Norman, who not only helps run the B&B but also has a little Tex-Mex
              restaurant down the street, was interested in the TrackChasing hobby and
              kind of amazed (as most people are) at how I'd fly down there just for a
              couple days to go to a race. It was also interesting to hear his story
              as he relayed it to us.

              Before I knew it it was time to head out the door and off to Auto'dromo
              La Gua'cima. Although the track was probably less than 10 miles away it
              seemed much farther due to the slow driving speeds. Alajuela, which was
              packed with traffic on the main streets on Saturday afternoon, had very
              little on Sunday morning so I did manage to make the first half of the
              drive in good time. Once out of the city, the road to the track is full
              of potholes and has a few windy spots through some populated areas, so
              it still took just over a half hour and I reached the track around 9:00.
              I didn't know what to expect as far as race crowd and was a little
              surprised to find myself stopped in line before even reaching the side
              road that led to the track, with people walking from car to car offering
              tickets for sale.

              I proceeded to the grounds of the track and entered the official parking
              area. At the booth I paid ?2000 for parking and ?3500 for general
              admission (total approx. $12.22). There were also more expensive options
              for grandstands and pits. I was very satisfied with my choice, as it not
              only allowed me to walk around nearly the entire outside perimeter of
              the 3 km. paved road course, but also afforded the best views of large
              portions of the course from some vantage points.

              Practice was taking place as I entered. Some of the higher priced
              viewing areas were accessed via a couple of bridges that crossed the
              track into the infield. There were some covered stands in the infield as
              well as open stands along the outside of the start/finish straight. To
              get to the start/finish area I had to circle about 3/4 of the track's
              outer perimeter. There was just a narrow area around the outside, much
              of it marked with numbered reserved spots where fans could bring in
              their vehicles and/or place tents and have cookouts next to the fence.
              The track was confined in a fairly small area and had higher elevation
              in the middle, which made it easy to walk around and also possible to
              view up to nearly half of the circuit at one spot.

              What I thought was the one 3 hour race began at about 9:25. But when I
              noticed that all of the cars were basic street cars and there were
              highly modified GT cars in the practice session I knew there had to be
              more than one race. As it turned out, the "3 hours" was actually 9 short
              heats that totalled 3 hours. The most basic class had about 26 cars
              including 1 dune buggy with just a roll bar! The next support class was
              also 4 cylinder cars but they were a bit more modified. There were 16 of
              those. The main category was for GT cars, but they were divided into the
              big GT1s such as Corvettes, Trans-Ams and Porsches (16) and the smaller
              GT3s (24). For these they started the small cars a couple hundred yards
              behind the big ones. Each of these 3 categories alternated and ran 3
              heats. This was an example of an event where there were no "features" as
              such, just 3 equal counting heats for each car. The time breakdown for
              each race was 35 minutes for the GTs, 15 minutes for the intermediate
              class and 10 minutes for the basic class.

              For the top class this event was the final points round of the 2007
              Central American Championship. Besides Costa Rica there were competitors
              from Guatemala and Trinadad & Tobago, at least. A man came around during
              the races and handed me a copy of a racing magazine called Mundo
              Motorizado. In it I learned that they are planning to start a new
              formula car class next year at some of the Central American tracks.

              By the time the GT cars ran their first heat, which started at almost 11
              o'clock, the crowd had grown to at least a few thousand. Parking was
              very tight and I imagined there'd be quite a mess trying to get out at
              the end of the day. I stayed for 5 hours, saw 6 races totalling 2 hours
              of actual racing, enjoyed the track, the racing, the people. I took in
              quite a bit of sun and wind and did a fair amount of walking. The
              experience was very enjoyable and I certainly felt I got my money's
              worth at the track. By 2 o'clock the second round of heats was complete
              and I was on my way out. There was practically no traffic at that time
              getting out and I was soon back in Alajuela at the bed and breakfast.

              After sitting with John on the porch for a while and learning that he
              planned to have a Papa John's pizza delivered for his dinner (several
              places, also including Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King will
              deliver free to the Hotel Vida Tropical) I decided to take a walk
              through town and look for something a little less familiar. It was
              already getting close to sunset as I walked through the narrow streets,
              which are all laid out in a grid pattern in the city center. This area
              was wall to wall people and cars when I returned from the race but by
              late afternoon it had thinned out considerably, although still fairly
              busy. The vendors at Parque Central, the little square block park in the
              middle of it all, had already packed up and gone for the day.

              As I walked I noticed many very small eating places but most of them
              were for fried chicken, tacos, hotdogs, etc. A few blocks from my room
              was a big football (soccer) stadium and I noticed that the floodlights
              had been turned on. I figured I'd walk that way and check out what was
              happening. There was apparently a pretty big game tonight. The stands
              were already pretty packed with people and there were groups of
              policemen standing on all the street corners for a couple blocks in each
              direction. Although I don't follow any sports I thought it would be an
              interesting experience to attend a big football game in a country where
              this is a huge deal. As I approached the row of ticket windows I noticed
              there were four different words on signs taped on the windows. I didn't
              know what was meant by any of them but I figured I only had a 25% chance
              of choosing the right line and not making a fool of myself in front of a
              line of people. Plus, even if I did get lucky buying the ticket, once
              inside the stadium I'd have to locate my seat amongst all those
              thousands of people. Thus, I chickened out.

              Finally after walking a while longer I stopped at a little Italian
              restaurant. I was immediately handed a menu, made my selection of
              "espaghuetti mixto" and a large bottle of tropical fruit juice and chose
              a table. I had a bowl of spaghetti with ham and chicken, plus garlic
              bread. The staff and other patrons of the restaurant were soon all glued
              to the television set in the corner which was broadcasting the game,
              especially for the numerous replays of a goal during which the TV
              commentator went wild. Drat, if only I was at the game. After paying my
              dinner bill of ?3000 ($6.67) I returned to the hotel as it was now after
              dark.

              --MONDAY, DECEMBER 10th, 2007--

              I had to get going even earlier today to get the most from my planned
              destination. We had a full table of 6 at breakfast this time, with a
              50ish Swedish couple, a 20ish French couple, plus John and I. It's
              always interesting to hear from world travelers but I wanted to be on
              the road by 7:45. I would be driving back past the race track and a
              couple miles beyond to visit the Butterfly Farm. This is one of the most
              popular attractions in the area and is actually a lot more interesting
              than it may sound, at least for anyone who is at all interested in
              nature and animals. Traffic turned out to be lighter than expected
              again, which was good because I wanted to be there when they opened at
              8:30. This was recommended as the best time to go. The Butterfly Farm
              cost $15, but I paid in colones and figured it would probably be cheaper
              that way. I was wrong. It cost ?7200. Anyway, included with admission is
              a guided tour in your language of choice. I was very surprised to find
              the small parking area completely empty on my arrival and no other
              visitors on site. I thought there'd at least be a couple dozen tourists
              arriving on a bus or something.

              After watching a 25 minute video I exited the movie room to find that
              the young French couple from my hotel had just arrived by public bus. So
              it would be just the three of us for the remainder of the tour. Costa
              Rica has hundreds of different species of butterflies. At the farm they
              are captured, bred and re-released to the local area. On the tour we got
              to see every stage of their lives from the laying of eggs through the
              larva, pupa and adult stages. We also saw how they take the pupa and box
              them up to be shipped to museums, shows, etc. There are about a thousand
              butterflies in the main enclosure and they are very used to being around
              people. In fact, one large black one became attracted to me and decided
              to sit on my face for forty minutes. It spent about 10 minutes on my
              mouth and the rest was split between my right cheek and my nose. The
              Frenchman took a few pictures of it with my camera, but we couldn't get
              the butterfly to open its wings so the pictures aren't as neat as they
              would have been. The others had a few good laughs as we walked around on
              the tour and this butterfly rode along on my lips. The guide said it may
              have been sucking salt from my skin, but I think perhaps it was enjoying
              some of that tropical fruit I had eaten for breakfast a couple hours
              earlier. She also said they once had a pair of butterflies mating on a
              boy's pants leg and it took her a while to break up the act.
              Surprisingly they mate for 8 to 10 hours at a time and the boy could
              have been there all day otherwise.

              I hadn't used hardly any of my Costa Rican money so at the end of the
              tour I did some holiday shopping at the gift shop and had just enough
              left to top off the gas tank before returning it to Budget that
              afternoon. I don't know if I was scammed at the gas station, but if so
              it wasn't for much anyway. I pulled up to the pump and the attendant
              immediately told me there was no regular gas, only super. It was only 8
              liters and the difference in price was minimal so I didn't mind either
              way, although it did leave me with just enough money that I couldn't
              really have a meal before returning to the airport. With a few hours to
              kill I went for a little drive, then parked on a side street in town and
              did a combination of walking and relaxing in a couple little parks.

              --TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11th, 2007--

              The plane that would take me home from Costa Rica was almost an hour
              late arriving there, which pushed back my departure and I finally got
              out of JFK around 2:00 AM and pulled into the driveway at home at 4:04.
              After a shower and change of clothes I was off to work for an 8 hour
              shift before finally hitting the hay that afternoon. With 20 countries I
              guess I can now say I am a true international TrackChaser. I believe
              this was my worst year since 1990 in total number of new tracks but at
              least I finished off 2007 with a very memorable and enjoyable trip.

              Will






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